Rhode Island Okays Ignition Interlocks for First Offenders!

ignition interlocks for first offenders in rhode islandFirst Maryland. Then Vermont. And now Rhode Island. Last year, when Texas became the twenty-fifth state to require all convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks, we knew that the halfway mark was significant. Now 27 states mandate the devices. When Governor Gina Raimondo signs her state’s bill, the total will be 28 states that order ignition interlocks for first offenders in DUI cases.

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. For years courts in states around the country have been ordering repeat offenders to install the devices, a measure which has helped bring down the rates of alcohol-related road deaths.

But for a long time, there was resistance to requiring interlocks for first offenders. Many of them had just made a mistake, the argument went, and wouldn’t reoffend. Wasn’t the interlock too harsh a punishment?

The truth is, people arrested for DUI have, on average, driven drunk a scary number of times before getting caught – the number usually quoted is 80. So an interlock usually puts an end to a habit of drunk driving and, in many cases, causes offenders to reevaluate their alcohol use.

And in fact, an ignition interlock is not a punishment – it’s a public safety measure. The device does not just prevent a driver from driving drunk: it also protects the driver, passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians from the dangers of impaired driving.

We’re looking for forward to hearing about Governor Raimondo’s signature, and the knowledge that 28 states are on board with all-offender ignition interlock laws. Other states are debating similar laws, so we can expect to hear about more successes in the future. In the meantime, congratulations to Rhode Island. Enjoy your safer roads.